top of page

Collaborative Design Agency: Framing the Opportunity

Student review with guests at the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (SAIC).

After four weeks of intense preparation, the second review for our Process(ing) Transformation course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago finally arrived. Guest critics included Tonika Johnson, visual artist and photographer from Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood, and Jon Cates, Associate Professor at the SAIC in the Department of Film, Video and New Media Art.

Our projects were guided by the concept of collaborative design agency: framing the opportunity, and we worked in two different teams. One digital, creating a large-scale animation projected on the facade of the school building (Woods) by using data and visuals from closed schools in Englewood; and one physical, a community station to engage residents and visitors in sharing their memories related to their belonging in Chicago.

These two projects will be featured as part of the exhibition Dimensions of Citizenship through the public program Ain't You Heard - What Happens to a Dream Deferred? on April 16, 2019.

Since these projects are a call for collective action through design, we ask the following questions: How should we combine our design with the history and conditions of the site? How do we make our design practical but also artistic? How can our design resonate with the residents' lived experiences, to spark imagination and creativity for the future of public schools and infrastructure in the South Side of Chicago?


Julia and Valerie's animation was about school closings in Englewood. They interviewed Memphis Tate, a student from John Hope, and used his perspective to show the optimism and opportunities that came from the school closings. Their goal is to merge quantitative and qualitative data to evoke reflection and imagination among residents and neighbors of Englewood. As amateurs in the field of video animation, Julia and Valerie received technical advice from Jon Cates, who informed them how viewers best respond to the pace and brightness of an outdoor video projection. Tonika Johnson, on the other hand, reminded them to always be aware of the big picture in order to best communicate the impact of the topic.

Memory Station

Lianne and I built physical stations that are divided into two parts, which would capture residents' stories about belonging. The first part is an interactive memory station, which explores PAST (photos and infographics about closed schools ), PRESENT (mirror where one can self-reflect), and FUTURE (a chalkboard with a question on future possibilities surrounding the closed schools) on a triprism that rotates within a larger stationary display.

The second part consists of 5x5 duralar sheets where people can write and draw whatever they want, and hang it on the frame.

Tonika was very excited to be able to interact with the displays and also suggested clarifying some of our infographics so it will be more approachable to a wider range of audience.


PU PU is a MFA graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects.

Recent post
bottom of page